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If stopped by a police officer, do drivers have a right to remain in their vehicle? I’m unable to find any specific RCW regulation for Washington state.

I feel that a person, not the subject of arrest, should be protected by the 4th amendment if they choose to remain in their vehicle, even if “ordered” to exit the vehicle by an officer.

I’m most interested to know:

How would a driver (1) Politely (2) determine if a given instruction to exit the vehicle must be complied with, and (3) decline the instruction without giving the officer “cause” or otherwise damaging a potential case?

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    Possible duplicate of Do you have to follow all the orders a police officer gives?. The current top answer there directly addresses this question: This obviously leads to the question: what orders are lawful? The officer has a pretty broad range of discretion. Ordering a person out of a car, or to roll down a car window, is pretty clearly lawful. – Paul Johnson Apr 22 at 8:20
  • While this topic is mentioned in the other post, the fourth amendment isn’t. I’d say the question remains to be a answered. Does the forth amendment provide the right “of people to be secure in their (vehicle)... against unreasonable searches and seizure... but upon probable cause...”? – primohacker Apr 22 at 15:04
  • You may feel that the 4th Amendment protects you from police ordering you out of your car, but the courts disagree. Also, ordering you out of your vehicle is not a search. – Paul Johnson Apr 22 at 15:22
  • The fourth amendment says that persons shall be secure in their (vehicles) except by warrant describing “persons or things to be seized.” Ordering a person out of their place sounds a lot like seizure of a person to me. – primohacker Apr 22 at 15:39
  • Which courts disagree? Is that a state court? Federal court? – primohacker Apr 22 at 15:40
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I feel that a person, not the subject of arrest, should be protected by the 4th amendment if they choose to remain in their vehicle, even if “ordered” to exit the vehicle by an officer.

The intuition is fine, but is basically incorrect.

I’m most interested to know:

How would a driver (1) Politely (2) determine if a given instruction to exit the vehicle must be complied with, and (3) decline the instruction without giving the officer “cause” or otherwise damaging a potential case?

From a practical perspective the only workable response is to comply. There are times when this is done without a reasonable suspicion (or in some cases probable cause) or other legal basis, but it is pretty much impossible for you to dispute this one the spot. Most of the time, the officer will have the legal authority to order you to leave the vehicle.

If they order you to exit the vehicle despite not having the legal authority to do so, the right course of action is to comply and then to file a complaint with the agency employing the officer or to bring a civil lawsuit against the officer.

There are good answers to a basically duplicate question at How can you tell if you have to follow a police officer's instructions?

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    "the right course of action is to comply and then to file a complaint " Or, if the officer obtains evidence as a result of the order, to file a motion to suppress. – Acccumulation Apr 22 at 18:03
  • @Acccumulation Certainly. Usually obtaining evidence, however, will require something beyond simply exiting the car. – ohwilleke Apr 22 at 18:05
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    In fact, in Pennsylvania v. Mimms SCOTUS held that police need no reason at all to order you out of a car. The logic is that you're already detained in a traffic stop, so getting out just changes exactly where you're detained and doesn't need any extra justification. – cpast Apr 22 at 18:16
  • @cpast One can imagine a situation where both the stop and the subsequent ordering you out of the car are improper and is not based on any reasonable suspicion, but there is really no way you can know that at the time. – ohwilleke Apr 22 at 18:49

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